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How Can You See More of Asia? Take an Overland Shore Excursion

An exotic cruise to Asia opens the door to a mysterious and marvelous part of the word. From towering pagodas to breath-taking temples, Asia is a feast for not only the palate, but for the eyes as well. Guests looking to explore more of the region and access sights and sounds not always accessible by ship can take one of Holland America Line’s overland shore excursions.

Whether you want to be gone from the ship for a few days or only overnight, the variety of options showcase everything from Mt. Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan, to Angkor Wat, the largest temple in the world. Combining culture and history, an overland tour is the ideal way to see more of the countries you are visiting.

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Angkor Wat & Saigon Overland Adventure
3 days/2 nights

(This tour can be taken from Sihanoukville or Phu My. Below is the Sihanoukville departure.)

Angkor Wat, left, and the Presidential Palace at Ho Chi Minh City are two highlights of the Angkor Wat overland tour.

Angkor Wat, left, and the Presidential Palace at Ho Chi Minh City are two highlights of the Angkor Wat & Saigon overland tour.

Day 1:
Transfer from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Lunch will be served at a local hotel in Phnom Penh before transferring to the airport for a flight to Siem Reap. Upon arrival at Siem Reap, check in at your hotel. Enjoy dinner and a cultural show a local restaurant this evening.

Day 2:
After breakfast at the hotel, you’ll visit the monumental Angkor Thom — the last capital of the Khmers — with its Elephant Terrace, the Terrace of the Leper King and the stunning Bayon Temple. This 12th-century masterpiece lies at the center of Angkor Thom and is a wonder of symmetry and grandeur. Continue your exploration of the Angkor temples at Ta Prohm. This temple has been left largely in its natural state since its ‘re-discovery’ by French explorers. Surrounded by jungle, its labyrinth of stone hallways is overgrown with the roots and limbs of massive banyan trees that envelop it like tentacles. It is one of the largest temples at Angkor, dedicated in 1186. Entering the courtyards is like stepping into a new kind of vegetable world — not of branches and leaves, but of roots. Ta Prohm is an exhibition of the mysterious subterranean life of plants, offering an infinite variety of cross sections. Return to your hotel for lunch and check out; then, this afternoon you’ll enjoy a Remok (Tuk Tuk) tour of Angkor Wat. This the largest temple in the world, with a volume of stone equaling that of the Cheops pyramid in Egypt. It is unlike all other Khmer temples in that it faces west, and is inspired by 12th-century Hinduism. Its symmetrical towers are stylized on the modern Cambodian flag. Conceived by Suryavarman II, Angkor Wat took an estimated 30 years to build. It is generally believed to have been a funeral temple for the king. It has been occupied continuously by Buddhist monks and is well preserved. Return to Siem Reap for an early dinner at a local restaurant. Then transfer to the airport for your flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Check into your hotel and overnight.

Day 3:
After breakfast you will be introduced to the major highlights of bustling Ho Chi Minh City, still commonly referred to as Saigon. Keep your eyes open for colorful street scenes such as markets selling everything from chilies to French baguettes and, of course, an endless stream of bicycles, cyclos and motorbikes. A photo stop is included at the Notre Dame Cathedral — a neo-Classical structure dating back to the 19th century. Then continue to the former Presidential Palace, now known as Unification Hall. This historic building was made famous when a North Vietnamese tank crashed through its front gates in 1975, signaling the end of the Vietnam War. It has changed little since that time and is now retained as a museum. Your tour will include the reception and dining rooms of the President’s quarters, and the basement with its ancient American-made telecommunications equipment still in place, and strategic military maps lining the walls. A short drive from there brings you to the History Museum. Built in 1929, this museum houses an excellent collection of artifacts illustrating the evolution of the cultures of Vietnam, from bronze-aged Dong Son civilization to Cham, Khmer and modern day Vietnam. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before driving from Saigon to Phu My port to re-join the ship.

This tour is available on select Amsterdam and Volendam itineraries.

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Myanmar Overland Adventure
4 days/3 nights

Bagan has more than 2,000 pagodas, temples and monasteries to explore.

Bagan has more than 2,000 pagodas, temples and monasteries to explore.

Day 1:
Get acquainted with the highlights of Phuket on today’s introduction to the culture and beauty of this island city. Your journey begins with the short scenic drive to Phromthep Cape — a promontory covered in date palms and golden grasses. The sea below breaks onto a rocky shore, providing spectacular views along Phuket’s coastline. Proceed to the Old Town to explore this little-seen face of Phuket on foot. Although famous for gorgeous beaches, Phuket also has a rich history founded in tin, which was once mined extensively in this area. You will also walk down Rommanee Alley — the set for a scene in the movie “Good Morning, Vietnam.” Visit the Shrine of Serene Light, a fine example of Chinese religious architecture. Absorb the sights and smells of a local wet market and, with your appetite stimulated, enjoy lunch at a hotel before proceeding to Phuket International Airport to connect with your flight to Myanmar.

Day 2:
Rise early and complete checkout formalities before transferring to the airport with the assistance of your guide. Board your flight to Bagan, one of the richest archaeological sites in Asia and, with more than 2,000 pagodas, temples and monasteries to explore, there is certainly plenty to keep you occupied. The temples at Bagan can only be described as amazing and enchanting, and still largely unaffected by the 21st century. Your morning will be dedicated to exploring the temples and the surrounding area. During your time here, you’ll discover many facets of Bagan’s culture—rural village life, interesting markets and artisan workshops. Sightseeing will include Gubyaukgyi with its excellent stucco carvings, the impressive Htilominlo Pahto and Ananda Pahto — one the best preserved temples in the archeological zone. After enjoying lunch at local restaurant, check in at your hotel and unwind briefly before heading out again. Bagan is famous not only for its temples and pagodas but also for its artistic handicrafts and lacquer ware. This afternoon, you’ll have the opportunity to visit a local workshop to observe the production process of some of these crafts. Finish the day with a sunset cruise on the Irrawaddy River before returning to your hotel.

Day 3:
After breakfast, glimpse the traditional way of life for Myanmar people on a visit to Phwar Saw Village. This village provides a perfect example of how locals live. Step inside a local home and observe their daily lifestyle and cooking techniques. Along the way you will also visit Nyaung Oo Market to see the vast variety of fresh fruit and vegetables for sale and gain an insight into the bustling market atmosphere in Bagan. A different perspective is offered this afternoon as you explore Bagan from a pony cart, accessing areas that other vehicles are unable to enter. You’ll come to truly appreciate the scale of the area from atop one of the temples, as early evening presents the perfect opportunity to watch the sunset. Join a typical Myanmar family at their home for dinner — your time here could never be complete without sampling the traditional cuisine.

Day 4:
Transfer to Bagan Airport in order for your flight to Yangon. Upon arrival in the capital, proceed to a local restaurant for lunch. After lunch you will have time to explore the Bogyoke Aung San Market — still commonly known by its old British name of Scott Market. Undoubtedly offering the largest selection of handicrafts in Myanmar, the market is a great place to discover a bargain and have fun haggling with the local traders. Continue to the 2,000-year-old Sule Pagoda, one of the city’s most endearing landmarks and an opportunity to view the splendid colonial buildings that still dot this part of the city — among which are the City Hall and the High Court Building. Your next destination is the historic Shwedagon Pagoda, which towers almost 330 feet above the green cityscape of Yangon. One of the wonders of the religious world, it is believed to have been built more than 2,500 years ago and is a testament to the faith of the Burmese. This magnificent building is covered with hundreds of gold plates and the top of the stupa is encrusted with 4,531 diamonds, the largest of which is 76 carats. One of the most magical times to visit the temple is early evening, just as the sun is about to set. Witnessing the serenity and calmness that abounds at this time of the day is an experience that will remain with you for a very long time. Transfer to the ship at the conclusion of your visit.

This tour is available on select Amsterdam and Volendam itineraries.

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Hakone & Shinknasen High-Speed Train Overnight
2 days/1 night

Viewing Mt. Fuji from a boat is a highlight of the Hakone & Shinknasen High-Speed Train tour.

Viewing Mt. Fuji from a boat is a highlight of the Hakone & Shinknasen High-Speed Train tour.

Day 1:
This tour is a great opportunity for a close-up view of one of the most recognizable landmarks of Japan — Mt. Fuji — viewed from Hakone National Park. You will also visit some of the popular spots in Hakone. Drive to Hakone for a lovely view of Mt. Fuji from a boat that plies the waters of Lake Ashi, located at the foot of the mountain. Then, you will transfer to Hakone Ropeway, which traverses the 4,035 m distance between Sounzan and Togendai. You’ll leave the Hakone Ropeway in the Owakudani Valley — one of the most scenic spots in the picturesque Hakone sightseeing area. Clear lakes, volcanic peaks, steaming hot springs and shady valleys makeup the diverse landscape here. The valley is famous for the steam that escapes from various pockets on Mt. Kami, and it was once called Ojigoku, meaning Grand Hell. Its present-day name is a bit more down to earth — it simply means ‘the immense simmering valley’. Legend says that eating just one of the black eggs that are boiled in the healthy sulfur springs of the valley can add five to seven years to a person’s lifespan.

Day 2:
After breakfast, transfer to the Odawara or Mishima train station for a ride to Tokyo on the legendary high-speed Shinkansen bullet train. From Tokyo station, you will drive to the Asakusa area to visit the Asakusa Temple. After lunch, you will see the Imperial Palace Plaza (exterior visit only) before re-boarding the ship.

This tour is available on select Amsterdam and Volendam itineraries.

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Bangkok Overnight Tour

2 days/1 night

Admire the golden Reclining Buddha at Wat Po.

Admire the golden Reclining Buddha at Wat Po.

Day 1:
Depart the port for the 2½-hour drive to Bangkok. Upon arrival in the City of Angels, enjoy lunch at a riverside restaurant. Then, board a chartered motor launch for a journey into the canals and river tributaries that traverse this fascinating city. As you explore the area, you’ll pass rustic homes built on stilts above the water, clustered along the river’s edge. Stop at the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun), whose 260-foot spire silhouette is often recognized as the symbol of Thailand. Built in the 18th century, the temple is dedicated to Aruna, the Indian God of Dawn, and is built on the site of the palace of King Taksin. Continue by motor launch for a short visit to the Royal Barges. The barges are fabulously ornamented boats that are used during Thai festivals and processions on the river. The King’s barge is more than 160 feet long and requires a crew of 50 oarsmen. This evening introduces you to mystical dances, Thai food and a truly Thai ambiance at a local dinner restaurant. During dinner, feast your eyes on the grace and beauty of the dancers, elegantly performing stories from classical Thai literature and folk tales. The traditional colorful costumes bedecked with jewels are quite dazzling.

Day 2:
After breakfast at the hotel, board a motor coach and pass through Chinatown and its beautiful flower market. You’ll visit Wat Po, renowned for its gorgeous golden Reclining Buddha statue and the Chedis of the Kings; then, continue to the Grand Palace. Since 1872, the Palace has been the focal point for the people of Thailand. Exploring the grounds, you will marvel at the extensive murals, gilded spires and fantastic architectural designs of the buildings. The sacred image of the Buddha sits high atop a golden throne in the Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha). Carved in the 15th century from a single piece of jade, the Buddha guards the sovereignty of the Kingdom and the religious beliefs of the people. This afternoon, you will shop for Thai products, leaving Bangkok in the mid-afternoon for Laem Chabang and returning to the ship.

Guest “Tommer” took this tour and had this to say:

I at first debated about the cost of this excursion but saving the travel time back and forth to the port was the key. After taking this excursion, everything about it was fantastic! Our guide, Emmy was so nice and made sure everyone knew what to do. We stopped at all of the important sites – the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Wat Traimit and spent enough time to enjoy and appreciate each (although a full day would barely be enough at the Grand Palace) – the hotel was first class and the dinner and show were amazing. All the meals were at very nice restaurants with great food. Looking back, the price was nominal for what we got. This is absolutely the best excursion we have been on!

This tour is available on select Volendam itineraries.

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Ayutthaya & Bangkok Overnight Tour
2 days/1 night

The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, left, and Ayutthaya are magical sights to behold.

The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, left, and Ayutthaya are magical sights to behold.

Day 1:
Leave the ship in Laem Chabang and set out to visit the ancient capital of Ayutthaya — a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enjoy a lovely 2½-hour scenic drive from Laem Chabang to the exquisite Bang Pa In Summer Palace of King Rama V. This eclectic collection of buildings calls to mind a quaint mixture of European and Thai architecture. Continue by motor coach to Ayutthaya where you will enjoy lunch at a local hotel. Re-board your coach to explore some of Ayutthaya’s most famous and interesting ruins including Wat Chai Wattanaram — a replica of the Angkor Wat temple — and Wat Mahathat, one of Ayutthaya’s oldest temples. Don’t miss the Buddha in a Bodhi tree. For a unique experience, you’ll take an elephant ride through the historic center of Ayutthaya before you check in at your hotel. You will have some time at leisure. Dinner this evening is served at the Sala Rim Naam, located on the Chao Praya River. This restaurant is the most famous venue for traditional Thai food — rice, curries, delicious soups flavored with lime juice and pepper, tasty freshwater fish, crispy fried vegetables and exotic Thai dessert. You will be seated at a low table and your meal will be accompanied by a performance of classical Thai dance. The Sala Rim Nam is sumptuously decorated with teak marble and bronze and floor-to-ceiling windows showcase views of the river by night. Return to your hotel after a pleasant evening.

Day 2:
After breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the river pier. Here, you will board a chartered motor launch that will take you through Bangkok’s waterway into complex network of Thonburi canals. You will enjoy picturesque sights and scenes of traditional Thai canal life with houses on stilts, hidden temples, floating groceries and water taxi. At a local community, dating back some 240 years when Thonburi was still capital of Siam, you can still experience untouched traditional way of living in a peaceful atmosphere with houses, beauty salons, herbal stores all on stilts. If you like, try traditionally Thai-styled brewed coffee or tea, with ice, from a floating coffee shop and ice cream boats pass by the village everyday for those who like ice cream on a stick. This is a side of Bangkok that you may never otherwise get to see. Next, you will pass the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun), whose 259-foot spire, with magnificent multicolored porcelain-studded towers, has become an iconic landmark of Bangkok, with the river in the foreground. Returning to the pier, leave the boat and set out on a short walk. The Temple of Emerald Buddha, commonly known as Wat Phra Kaew, is part of the Grand Palace. The temple is an architectural wonder of golden stupas, walls and pillars encrusted in shining and colorful mosaics, all gleaming under the tropical sun. Those statues include Phra Kaew, or the Emerald Buddha — the Thai people’s most revered Buddha image. It is carved from a single piece of jade and is the most revered and precious image of the Lord Buddha. The magnificent buildings of the Grand Palace offer a glimpse of the grandeur Thai architectural style. The complex was constructed some 220 years ago and was the residence of the Royal Family before Chitralada Summer Palace was turned into their permanent home. The Grand Palace is now used for ceremonial purposes and to accommodate visiting dignitaries. After a sumptuous lunch, you will transfer back to the ship.

This tour is available on select Volendam itineraries.

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Xi’an & The Terra Cotta Warriors Overland Adventure
4 days/3 nights

The Terra Cotta Warriors were created to protect China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuang, in death.

The Terra Cotta Warriors were created to protect China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuang, in death.

Day 1:
Enjoy a morning tour to Yu Yuan Garden and the Old Town Shanghai area. You’ll have lunch at a local Chinese restaurant before flying across China on an afternoon flight to Xi’an. A buffet dinner will be served at your hotel after check-in, and the rest of the evening is free.

Day 2:
Depart your hotel this after breakfast morning for a motor coach ride to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda — a temple built to house Buddhist scriptures brought back from India by traveling monk Xuan Zang. Enjoy a pleasant shopping stop at the Jade Factory with thousands of products made from one of the most beautiful stones in the world. Lunch will be served at a local Chinese restaurant; then you will visit the Terra Cotta Warriors Museum. Archaeologists unearthed this unbelievable collection of thousands of life-size terra cotta warriors and their horses in 1974. One of the most important finds to date in the world, this legion was created under the command of unified China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuang. He was terrified that his enemies would pursue him even after death, and so he ordered this “army” to protect his burial site — and for centuries indeed it did. Each warrior is different, as you will discover as you are led through the vaults where these and other treasures have been found. Marvel at the sheer numbers, and the incredible detail in each and every figure. Later, visit the ancient City Wall. Dinner will be at the Tang Dynasty Palace Restaurant Theater, where you will enjoy a cultural program, including a concert played on Tang Dynasty musical instruments and colorful dances over a thousand years old.

Day 3:
After breakfast at the hotel, begin your day with a visit to the famous Tian’anmen Square, the largest gathering spot in the world. Continue to the Forbidden City — a collection of temples and imperial buildings. After enjoying lunch at a local Chinese restaurant, you will visit the 15th-century Temple of Heaven, set in one the largest parks in Beijing. Tonight, you will be treated to a feast of the famous Peking Duck dinner.

Day 4:
Begin your day with a flight from Xi’an to Beijing, the youngest of China’s Imperial Cities, and the capital of modern China. Upon arrival, first you will transfer directly to lunch, served at a local restaurant with a shopping opportunity. Then, visit to the Great Wall of China, which was built progressively from 476 BC to guard against invasion and harassment by the northern nomadic tribes. Bid farewell to Beijing and transfer to the ship, waiting for you at Xingang pier.

This tour is available on select Volendam itineraries.

If you’re taking an Asia cruise that visits these ports, the shore excursions can be pre-booked so you get the tour of your choice.

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Have you taken an overland tour? Send your photos and thoughts about your experience to info@hollandamericablog.com and you might be featured on social media!

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